Company looks set to help improve Yangon’s water supply
VCS Denmark claims to know a thing or two about water. The company has been in operation for over 150 years, beginning by supplying the city of Odense in Denmark with clean drinking water. Now, as the third largest water and wastewater company in Denmark, it operates seven waterworks, eight wastewater treatment plants and 3,400 kilometers of water and wastewater pipelines at home and runs projects around the world.
Now VCS Denmark is working on a feasibility project for Yankin District in Yangon in cooperation with the Yangon City Development Committee, DanAqua (VCS Denmark project branch), Grontmij Ltd. (Denmark), MY Associates Co. Ltd., Danish Water Services and DPS Co. Ltd.
The feasibility project focuses on a pilot area with 20,000 inhabitants and Yae Koo Pumping Station, the aim being to renew the pipe system that is now over 50 years old and is badly leaking in places.
In an interview with Mizzima Business Weekly, Henrik Juul, senior project manager of VCS Denmark, spoke of the company’s plans and the water and wastewater system in Yangon.
With whom do you work with here?
We work with YCDC, MY Associates and our other partners, DPS mapping and GIS mapping. The actual data collection is done by them. At the moment, we’re in the phase of collecting data. And we just started processing this data, doing mapping and so on for the feasibility study.
When will you open your office in Yangon?
When we come to the implementation phase, of course, it will be required that we have a project office in Yangon. But, at the moment it is not necessary because we are here on and off.
When will the implementation phase start?
It’s very difficult to say because it depends on the financing structure we will have to go for. But, there are several possible donors like ADB and World Bank. Water, electricity and roads are primary development focus areas. You mention in your presentation, the Yankin Pilot Project.
When will you start the implementations of that project?
There are two projects in Yankin which will probably be implemented. The first project will be Yankin network which is a pipe network to make pipe rehabilitation and capacitybuilding and those things related to the monitoring systems. The other project will be pump efficiency and the automation of pump operations.
So the focus initially is on Yankin. are there projects for other townships?
The purpose of this pilot project is to make a showcase, a demonstration project which can be projected to other areas in Yangon.
Why did VCS Denmark choose Yankin township for the pilot project?
Because it is very typical. It’s a domestic area with just a little industry, small industries which is very typical for Yangon. So, if it works and is feasible in that place, that experience can be projected very quickly to other areas.
Did you choose Yankin township as it has a very poor pipe network?
It was chosen because it is very typical for Yangon. The age of the pipes are very typical. I mean, in downtown you have a little older pipes. But in Yankin, the pipes are very typical. That’s why Yankin has been chosen as a pilot area.
What do you mean when you say “typical”?
“Typical” means the leakage percentage is very typical for Yangon. The age of the pipe network is very average for Yangon. Not very old, but not very new either. And the way it operates is also relatively typical.
When you say the leakage percentage is very typical, what do you mean?
A typical leakage in Yangon is probably around 50 percent, a typical physical leakage. That is not special. I mean even in Malaysia, the leakage percent is also 50 percent in several states. When we started working in Vietnam, the leakage percent was 50 percent, now that has been reduced to 30 percent but still high.
Where did you begin work first in southeast asia?
The first one was Thailand and then Vietnam, 20 to 30 years ago. We have been in Malaysia and in Indonesia. So, we worked in quite a lot of places in Southeast Asia. We have an office in Kuala Lampur.
Is funding the main obstacle to implementing the Yankin Pilot Project?
That’s the main one, it always is, the funding. In order to get the system efficient enough to pay for themselves, to pay for the maintenance, to keep the values of the assets, it’s important to get to that level where the systems are functioning relatively smoothly, trouble-free and inexpensive.
Do you think the adB or the World Bank will give financial assistance?
Well, the ADB is already contributing a lot now. And the World Bank, I am sure, will be contributing a lot. But, they are just starting up. The World Bank is very thorough and they just restarted. So, they will not jump into the implementation straight away. They are known to do a lot of research before they go into a specific project.
Which other organizations would contribute to the water sector?
A lot of other firms like USAIDS, SIDA (Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency), French and Dutch organizations are already here. They are contributing to a lot of projects, different projects. So, there are a lot of countries willing to help Myanmar.
Will usaidmake contributions to the water sector?
I’m not sure that they will be contributing in the water sector. But, they have already been contributing in electricity and other sectors heavily.
When the ADB gives financial assistance to the water sector, are they all contributions or some are loans?
Some of them are grants. Some of them are loans with very favorable conditions.
How much will the adB give to the water sector?
It will depend on the project, the project that they went through. Some of the projects are rather large. Some of them are very small. I think the smallest one is US$50,000, a very small project for local involvement in water and sanitary issues.
How much will your Yankin Pilot Project cost when it is implemented?
That’s impossible to say at present. We have to finish the feasibility study before we can say how much it will cost.
This Interview first appeared in the September 12 edition of M-ZINE+.